You’re walking down the street and you meet one of your friends who speaks Spanish. You haven’t seen each other in a long time so while catching up, you tell him or her that you’ve just started learning Spanish online with Homeschool Spanish Academy! They are very happy to hear that you’ve started the adventure of learning a new language, so they say jokingly to test your skills: Hola. ¿Cómo estás? You turn red because you still feel a bit unsure about Spanish pronunciation and the correct use of verbs. You smile nervously. Thankfully, your friend has had Spanish lessons for a long time and explains that you can answer with just a short bien, you can say me siento bien, or you can also answer estoy bien.
Now, we’re here to help! Watch this awesome video we just released and keep reading this blog post! We’ve got you completely covered!
Would you rather download this blog with additional exercises? Click below! Don’t forget to practice with this video as well!
Expressing Our Feelings
As you may have learned from that interaction with your old friend, you can express the way you feel in Spanish in more than one way. Let’s have a look at that:
Sentirse vs. Sentir
Sentirse means to feel, and sentir, without the se of the reflexive verb, means to feel. Wait, what? They translate to the same English word, but they have two slightly different meanings in Spanish. It’s a little bit like that blog we wrote on ya and its 14 meanings! Check it out here if you haven’t had a chance to do so already. In this particular case, ‘to feel’ in Spanish can either be:
- sentirse: to feel oneself, to recognize one’s feelings,
- After the verb, we have an adjective: Me siento feliz (adj.). I feel happy (adj.).
- sentir: to feel a feeling
- After the verb, we have a noun: Siento felicidad (noun). I feel happiness (noun).
- sentir: to feel something outside oneself
- Siento la textura. I feel the texture.
When we say me siento or estoy, we’re using linking verbs* to help us describe the way we feel. After these linking verbs, there always comes an adjective! Do you remember how in Spanish an adjective has to agree with the gender and number of the noun?
* Linking verbs are verbs that connect an adjective to a noun. They are like a bridge that helps us connect the description of an adjective to the subject of a sentence, unlike other verbs that describe the action that the subject of a sentence performs. Linking verbs help us describe a subject. Some examples of linking verbs in English are: to be, to appear, to smell, to become.
Let’s have a look at examples of gender-number agreement when it comes expressing the way we feel:
As you can see here, the adjective changes in both gender and number to match the subject of the sentence. In this case, we used personal pronouns only to give a better example, but we can replace these with nouns:
- Instead of él/ellos, we can write el niño/los niños
- Instead of ella/ellas, we can write la niña/las niñas
* In any case, the adjective needs to match both in gender and number the personal pronoun or the noun that we use in the sentence! That’s always very important when using adjectives, and not only the ones that reflect the way we feel!
As with almost every rule in language, there are exceptions. There are adjectives that are invariable. This means that they change only to agree with the noun’s number (not the gender), or they do not change at all. Let’s check those out!
Number agreement only
As you can see with these two examples, the adjective changes when used in plural and singular, but there’s no difference when the gender of the noun changes.
The’s one more way in Spanish in which you can express how you’re feeling at a specific point in time. In English you are hungry, or thirsty. While in Spanish you can estar hambriento or estar sediento, it’s a lot more common to say that you tienes hambre (you have hunger) o tienes sed (you have thirst).
As you may have noticed, this construction includes the verb:
tener (to have) + a noun
Let’s see how this works:
A Little Practice
Let’s enjoy this little practice exercise by feeling in the blanks! Remember the gender and number agreement! Don’t forget to book a FREE class today to practice even more!
|Yo ___ feli__.||I feel happy.|
|Tú ___ trist__.||You are sad.|
|Ella ___ emocionad__.||She feels excited.|
|Nosotros ___ preocupad__.||We are worried.|
|Ustedes ___ feli__.||You all feel happy.|
|Ellos ___ nervios__.||They are nervous.|
Now it’s your turn to build sentences with these adjectives:
If you are wondering how to pronounce these words and phrases, check out our supplementary video lesson!Read More
Learning a new language can be daunting – the pronunciation, the grammar, the slang, the social nuances. Even when it’s a category 1 language like Spanish, the learning process can be quite intimidating, especially when you don’t know how to start.
There were two main things that held me back several years when learning Spanish: fear of making mistakes and lack of exposure. Now, I was exposed to Spanish as young as 5 years old, and I took classes and used audio books for about 6 years in middle school and high school. One year before I graduated, I took a trip to Peru. I was expected to be a translator since I was at the top of my Spanish class, but when I got there it was a complete shock. I did not understand one. Single. Word. Then, a few years later, I went to Guatemala and truly focused on my Spanish. Once I committed myself to Spanish immersion and practice with native speakers, I was holding conversations after one month and translating for my friends by 4 months. Now, complete fluency took a few years more, but that had to do more with learning the local jargon and perfecting the dreaded subjunctive. In those first months though, I did not take one single Spanish class. So, how was I able to learn so quickly? Well, I’ve put together some important points that helped me learn Spanish as a beginner. Hopefully, they will be of service to you as well!
1. Language Journal
I’m a visual learner. Still to this day, if I learn a new Spanish word, I cannot remember or reproduce it until I see it written. If you’re a visual learner like me, keeping a language journal is critical to the learning process. You can write down new words, make connections between them, study sentence structure….and the list goes on. Even if you’re not a visual learner, a language journal is still a great idea when learning Spanish as a beginner. You can write down new words you hear in a conversation or in a movie, mark down the pronunciation, and return to your notes at later times to keep practicing.
When learning a language, you are teaching your brain to think in a completely different way. Up until now, it has always thought and used English (unless English is not your first language!). In order to work towards Spanish fluency, your brain needs to create new pathways; it’s like digging a riverbed in a desert. At first, it will be extremely difficult, but with practice and repetition, the water will start flowing with ease. That’s where the journal comes in. You can’t expect yourself to remember every word you hear in class or in a conversation – you need reinforcement. With the language journal, you can write things down how you best understand and remember them. You can refer to your notes to practice or if you forget a word that’s on the tip of your tongue. It’s also extremely useful to have a small language journal to carry with you if you know you’re going to be situations that require Spanish conversation. I can tell you from personal experience that a language journal can be a lifesaver when you start learning Spanish as a beginner.
Like I said before, lack of exposure held me back from Spanish fluency for 6 years. 6 years! When I had accurate exposure to the Spanish language, I was conversing in months. Exposure to the language is absolutely essential when learning Spanish as a beginner, whether you’re 5 or 95! It may seem absolutely overwhelming initially, but remember what I said about building riverbeds in our brain? At first, the water trickles, but with practice, it will soon start flowing.
Taking Spanish classes with a native English speaker may seem easier for you, but in the end, it will cost you – possibly even 6 years! Take the leap. Expose yourself to the Spanish language. This doesn’t necessarily mean traveling to Latin America and completely immersing yourself in the culture and language (Although, if you get the chance, I highly recommend it). There are plenty of opportunities for exposure right where you are.
- Movies and Television – You may think that it’s not possible to learn a language this way, but I have met so many people who learned to speak English just by watching movies and TV shows like ‘Friends.’ It takes commitment, but it’s possible! This is a great way to get Spanish exposure at no extra cost, especially if you have young learners. Netflix is a great option as well because you can choose from shows in Spanish (like Narcos or Reina del Flow) and shows that have a mix of English and Spanish, or ‘Spanglish’ (Jane the Virgin, One Day at a Time). Subtitles are another great tool to increase your Spanish exposure and comprehension. Learn more about how to use them to learn Spanish as a beginner here.
- Community – About 51 million people speak Spanish in the United States. Get out and make some friends! I know it can be awkward to start speaking your second language with a native speaker – trust me, I avoided it for a very long time. However, nothing can help you more than taking that step and initiating conversation with a native speaker.
- Online Classes – Here at Spanish Academy, we offer high-quality online Spanish classes to students of all ages around over the world. These classes are unique because they are taught by native speakers whose goal is to improve your Spanish fluency. You get great exposure to the language, a personal tutor to answer all your questions, and reinforcement materials. Instead of traveling all the way to Latin America, you can get the same benefits right in the comfort of your own home. Try a Free Class today to see if it’s a right fit for you!
So you have your vocabulary words written in your handy-dandy notebook. You increased your exposure to the language using one of the suggestions above. Now comes the scary part. Actually talking. I avoided conversing in Spanish for such a long time, thinking I wasn’t ready yet. Turns out, it was what I needed most of all. If you just do bookwork and never practice speaking, you’ll never be ready to hold a conversation. As uncomfortable as it may be, you need to start conversations in Spanish even as a beginner. In my personal experience, many native Spanish speakers wanted to speak English with me so they could practice. However, when I expressed my desire to learn and improve my Spanish, they were more than happy to help me. I am forever grateful to them for their patience as they listened to me stumble through sentences and repeated themselves various times until I understood what they were saying. Find someone you feel comfortable with (possibly even with a personal instructor from Spanish Academy) and ask to practice your Spanish with them.
Of course, learning a language doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself. Everyone learns in a unique way at their own speed. You will make mistakes – I still do, in both languages! However, if you are persistent in learning Spanish and use the right tools, you will progress towards fluency. Don’t get frustrated!
Also, you will be surprised at how patient people are when you try to speak to them in their native language. When I was learning Spanish as a beginner, I was afraid they would get frustrated or not understand me. However, it was quite the contrary. The people around me understood what I was trying to say and helped me express myself in a more natural way. They were incredibly forgiving and so delighted that I was making an effort to communicate with them in Spanish.
‘La práctica hace al maestro.’ Practice makes perfect. This is especially true when talking about learning a language and creating those pathways in your brain. The more you practice, the easier Spanish will come. One great tool I can recommend to learn Spanish as a beginner is language apps. They aren’t the same as having your own Spanish teacher, but they are a great way to reinforce what you are learning in class or what you heard in your Spanish conversations. Check out our top 4 apps of 2019, and pick which one would best for your language needs. For complete beginners, I would recommend Drops.
To learn Spanish as a beginner, you need to make sure you have some sort of exposure to Spanish every day, whether that be through apps, TV, conversations, or classes. Taking a class here and there or using Duolingo once a month will not get you to fluency. Keep practicing diligently, and you will see impressive results in as little as a few months!
To learn more about our Spanish program and the classes we offer, click here. If you want to know why our method works, check out this blog, which also explains more about the way our brains function. And, of course, don’t forget to sign up for a free class today! When learning Spanish as a beginner, it really helps to have a native speaker help you through the process and answer all your questions. Choose your personal instructor from our 60+ teachers to guide you on the path towards Spanish fluency. ¡Empieza hoy!
The food: chuchitos, caldos, pupusas, every kind of taco, and a rainbow of colorful tortillas. ¡Qué rico!
The scenery: mountains, beaches, and famous ruins with mangrove rivers leading jungle. Beautiful.
The wildlife: viscous jaguars and scorpions, sweet llamas, and flying squirrels. Alive.
We. Love. Latin America.
So, obviously we want you to come and visit us, but not only that. Let’s plan a summer-long trip. Can you imagine? Sounds great, right? Well, summer is only 5 months away so you have PLENTY of time to pack, update your passport, and book all your hotels. But what about your Spanish?
5 months. Just give us 5 months, and we swear we can get you on the right track right for your trip to Latin America! In fact, you should probably jump over to our latest blog Spanish for Dummies which is a quick guide to get all of your basics and FUNdementals down.
How do you learn ‘Travel Spanish’ in 5 months?
That was the initial pitch. Now comes the ‘How.’ To help you out, we did some investigation. The first was with students from a local English class and we asked them, ‘What advice would you give to travelers who want to learn Spanish in 5 months?’
Oh, the enthusiasm in the ADULT classroom! We had never seen so much enthusiasm even when we brought doughnuts that one time… In the midst of all of the shouts, consejos, and ideas, the most agreed upon methods were:
- Learn key phrases and statements
- Tandem conversation partner
- Practice every day on an application
- Book classes at academies in each country that you visit
Learn key Questions: 6 Q’s
The best thing about travel is that you will most likely be making requests or basic commentary to the native Spanish speakers around you. All of the memory-making is thankfully going to be done with you and your traveling compadres. We trust that you have done the easiest things and booked all of your travel, hotel, and activities before your arrival. However, some of these phrases could possibly help in those areas too.
Learn key Statements: Compliments, Abilities, and Wants
So now that we have all of the questions out of the way, let’s add a little bit of personality to our Spanish for Travelers! Show them what you can do and what you like so you can try to participate in the culture!
Tandem conversation partners:
Woah! All of that Travel Spanish is going to be so useful for you to participate in the culture, advocate for yourself, and travel with such ease. But, what are you going to do when people respond?! Woah! There are so many different kinds of answers for these questions and any other comments that you make. Because of that, we recommend tandem conversation. Bring this list of questions and statements to a native speaker in your own community and pretend you are in the jungle or some other exotic place. You will FOR SURE learn multiple kinds of responses. Check out your local libraries or after school/university programs as well.
If you cannot find a native speaker to help you.
If you cannot find a native speaker to help you through your imaginary jungle – either concrete or full of cobras – we suggest you find recommended online sites like Homeschool Spanish Academy.
Yes, even us at HSA! After all, we are a Spanish academy based in Central America, and all of our teachers are native speakers. Because of this, our classes offer the most most life-like learning experience possible that would help you in your travels! When you get to Guatemala, you could actually say that you have friends here who you have talked to already. Check out our sign-up page to start the tandem conversing NOW!
Practice every day on an application
Tandem conversation, memorizing phrases, and asking questions will really get you far in your Travelers Spanish, but what about vocab and the BASICS? Well, in the midst of our ‘sample advice group,’ there was a HUGE agreement that using applications every day for at least 20 min will help build vocabulary and all of the basics that tandem conversation will not blatantly give you. There was even one native Spanish-speaking student who was learning English AND French on his applications. Because of his experience, he was able to provide great insight. Our top 3 suggestions are:
- Named the best app to learn Spanish by HSA, Duolingo is an interactive way to learn Spanish. Yes, there are tests and quizzes, but there are fun listening, speaking, and visual activities for every learner.
- This is a great application. Not only is it an instant phrasebook full of useful and instantly translated phrases for the country where you are going, but it is also a reliable electronic translator for those SAVE ME IN THE JUNGLE moments.
- Top 4 free Spanish apps of 2019
- Check out our own list of application suggestions! “Maybe you’re looking to start from scratch, or perhaps you are already in Spanish and just need extra support. Well, you’re in luck! We’ve compiled a list of the best Spanish apps of 2019 to learn Spanish for free! Check out which one will work best for you.”
As we talked with our ‘sample group’ of very enthusiastic English students, the final advice that they wanted to give everyone learning Travel Spanish was to keep studying even when you get to your destination. Don’t let all of the awe and wonder of your travels sidetrack you! Also, if you have a question, just ask your teacher. There are so many Spanish academies for travelers all around Latin America. Take Maximo Nivel, for example. You can take classes, have your native teacher show you the culture, and even stay at a local’s home so you can get a true Spanish immersion. How do babies learn a language? By participating to the fullest and eating as many black beans as possible! Why don’t you try it their way?
Alright, travelers! It’s time to get going!
Summer is just around the corner and these next 5 months should give you plenty of time to learn Travel Spanish! As your faithful ‘tips and trip’ advisers in the world of Spanish learning, we are always here to support you. So much so that we are even offering a free trial class with us! We want to help evaluate what your travel Spanish learning needs are and even help to give you a starting point as you work towards your 5-month travel fluency. Click here to sign up for a free class!
Have you ever wondered why Spanish names are so long? As you may have noticed, the names of people in Spanish-speaking countries consist of a first name and two surnames. Traditionally, you will see the first surname of the father followed by the first of the mother. Presently, laws have changed on gender equality and now allow any order, but we normally see the original order. People always use their full name in legal settings. In informal contexts, however, they use their first name and first surname to introduce themselves.
The first name can be simple, such as José (Joseph), or composite such as José Miguel (Joseph Michael). Nevertheless, in the given name, Miguel is not a middle name but is part of the name José Miguel. Contrary to English-speaking countries, the idea of a middle name does not exist and, as such, is very rare to see.
Transmission of Spanish Surnames
The two last names come from what is called a “generational transmission” from both parents. Currently, the two first surnames of each parent are combined. As stated above, the father’s surname is often first while the mother’s surname comes after. Interestingly, the paternal, or father’s, name will eventually eliminate the maternal name of the family line. An example of this is with two parents, Lucía López García and Jorge Rosales Castillo. Their child will most likely use the traditional order and hold a name such as Paola Rosales López. She will marry and her name will change to Paola Rosales Mendoza or Paola Rosales de Mendoza. As you can see, the maternal name has been dropped and replaced by the husband’s name. Nonetheless, the transfer of the father’s surname was not always the norm. Spanish-speaking societies once practiced the transmission of one Spanish surname, choosing between the mother or father.
The Four Categories of Surnames
When looking at Spanish surnames, a clear pattern emerges. History tells us that by the twelfth century, as populations grew, people needed a way to distinguish one name or family from another. They began to follow specific traditions that helped them understand which surname to use. Namely, four types of surnames appeared. They became the origin of most Spanish surnames we see today.
Patronymic and Matronymic Surnames
Patronymic means the surname comes from the father’s first name, while matronymic means it’s from the mother’s name. Now, if you met two men name Juan, you might mix them up. However, by distinguishing who their fathers are, their names suddenly become distinct. The paternal surname was a combination of the man’s father’s name and a suffix meaning “son of”: -ez, -az, -is, -oz (or -es), -as, -os. In other words, someone with the name Juan Fernandez means Juan “son of Fernando”. If he had a son, his name would have been Diego Juanez, Diego “son of Juan.” Given this fact, surnames weren’t at all consistent. Eventually, a specific surname stuck with the family and was passed to future generations. Matronymic surnames are less common, often a result of illegitimate children or a mother of higher noble ranking.
Geographic surnames tell us where the first person with a surname lived. This includes very specific surnames, such as de Soto (from Soto), from families that typically owned land. More general surnames like Iglesias (lived near a church) acted much like nicknames. Similarly, they may refer to what type of land the person lived on. For example, del Valle (from the valley) or de la Vega (from the meadow) depict certain features of the original homeland.
Occupational surnames refer to a person’s job or trade. Two types of occupational surnames are standard and titular. Standard occupational surnames represent a common trade, such as Zapatero (shoemaker) and Barros (an artisan or builder who used clay). Nobility often gave these surnames to the commoners under their rule. Conversely, the nobility used titular occupational surnames that denoted their position. For example, Hidalgo means “nobleman,” and Marques means “marquis.”
Descriptive surnames are less common and much more personal. They refer to a quality, characteristic, or physical trait of a person. It’s worth noting that this type of surname was frequently given to commoners as a form of insult. For this reason, the bulk of these surnames have not survived over time. Those that remain show a fairly neutral trait or a positive attribute. Examples include Bravo (brave), Cano (gray), Cortes (courteous), Delgado (thin), and Orejón (big ear).
Spanish Surnames in Foreign Countries
Entering into a foreign naming system often requires vigilance and necessary changes. One example is when a Spanish person lives under an English naming system. In order to avoid confusion, they may hyphenate their last name, turning Marcela Pérez Rubio into Marcela Pérez-Rubio. In view of the one-surname system used by English-speakers, there may be legal confusion and her name could become Marcela P. Rubio on a government document. This poses a big problem for her identity since, in her home country, her name would be abbreviated as Marcela Pérez R.
Foreign Surnames in Spanish-Speaking Countries
In Spanish-speaking countries, foreign immigrants keep using their cultural naming customs. However, if they choose to obtain citizenship, they must assume a name in the Spanish manner. If the person comes from a culture with a unique family name, they repeat it twice. As a result, an English name “William Stewart Mirren” turns into “William Stewart Mirrén Mirrén.” The law allows a person to adopt the mother’s maiden name if they choose to. Lastly, the Spanish custom connects the first and middle name making it the two first names for legal documents.
Top 50 Most Common Spanish Surnames
The chart below shows the top 50 most common Spanish surnames in Spain. As well, you will see the estimated population of how many people have this particular last name. Take a look at the chart and see how many names you recognize. Do you see which of the suffixes is most common among these names?
Prepositions “de” and “y”
There are times that Spanish surnames include a preposition between the paternal and maternal surnames. Some people choose to use “de” and/or “y” for three main reasons. Firstly, it shows nobility, such as the name of Gabriel de la Cueva y Girón, who was a sixteenth-century nobleman and military leader. Secondly, it denotes location, as is the case for the name Lope Félix de Vega y Carpio (de Vega means “of the meadow”), a famous playwright of undistinguished origin. Lastly, it helps to distinguish between the first name and a surname that could be mistaken for a first name like Antonio Miguel y Morales. In this case, we understand that Miguel is not his second name, but instead the first of his surnames.
Obviously, Spanish surnames give us the chance to learn about a person’s family history. Not only is it fascinating to take a closer look at the meaning of a person’s surname, but it is also educational. By learning how these surnames were created, how they’re used in present day, and how to understand them, we can better comprehend their importance. Furthermore, it allows us to appreciate the complexity of the naming system in Spanish culture.Read More
We talk to people every day – on the street, in the store, at home – and rarely think about how amazing it is that we can actually communicate with them. We constantly take for granted our ability to converse with those around us.
Now, 58.9 million of our neighbors here in the States are Spanish-speakers. Imagine that for a moment. There is an impressive language barrier between us and almost 20% of the population. How can we bridge that gap and begin to communicate more fully with our neighbors? Well, we can start by perfecting our Spanish-learning process.
Why the Traditional Methods of Learning Spanish are Flawed
Let’s think about how most of us have tried to learn Spanish…
- Workbooks with reading and writing exercises
- Large classroom settings
- Non-native Spanish speaking instructors
- Software (free or paid) with audio recordings
- Classes only 1 or 2 times per week
Did one of these methods work for you? More than likely, they did not because these techniques utilize the wrong parts of the brain.
Flaws in the Traditional Methods
Remember the list we made of the different ways we normally try to learn Spanish? Those are what we are going to call ‘traditional learning methods.’ Let’s explore further to see where exactly they went wrong.
If you’re like me and went to public school, the norm was that you took about a year of foreign language in middle school before it became a requirement in high school. Since I studied in Texas, Spanish was the most logical choice of a second language. However, it wasn’t like I had much of a choice since German and French were my only other options. So, I began to study Spanish only because of its practicality. Now, on a personal level, Spanish was my least favorite class. I was a pretty good student overall, but matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do better than a B- (yes, I know – I was an overachiever).
At some point, I owned the fact that I wasn’t good at learning languages and just gave up. I stopped trying, which was quite contrary to my personality.
Looking back, I can point to several things that probably held me back.
Common Learning Errors
- Large Classes: I was in a 5A district, studying at a high school of 5000+ students. My graduating class was about 1000 students. In other words, the classrooms were consistently filled to capacity.
- Limited Attention: Due to the high student count, how much attention could one teacher realistically give to any one student? How does anyone stay focused when they’re just another face in the crowd?
- Limited Practice: Our classes, if I remember correctly, were approximately 50 minutes. They later shifted to an hour and twenty minutes in high school. Within those 80 minutes, I experienced about 10 minutes of actual application time. However, we weren’t speaking with actual native speakers. Instead, we stammered broken phrases to other non-Spanish speakers for a couple of minutes until we got distracted by a more interesting topic.
- Workbooks: Given the limited class practice time, most of the actual Spanish work was assigned as homework. This meant that we mainly learned about the reading and writing rules of the Spanish language in class, and perfected them (or at least attempted to) outside of class. I would actually argue that my reading and writing got pretty decent, but I couldn’t speak the language if my life depended on it.
In hindsight, it’s clear that my Spanish journey was flawed since day one. I was learning how to read and write in Spanish, but I barely flexed my auditory & speaking muscles. The lessons, activities, and practice works were constantly reinforcing reading and writing in Spanish, nothing else.
Now let me be clear. I’m definitely not saying that software and textbooks that focus on those learning areas are insignificant. I truly believe they can be helpful. However, I’m simply saying that they are only one part of a much bigger picture. We need various tools to activate the key areas of the brain that will help us effectively learn Spanish fast.
Before we can begin to learn Spanish fast, we must have a better understanding of how the brain functions when learning a language.
How the Brain Works
The brain is a very complex organ in the human body. It controls everything we do. Whether that’s reading, writing, or speaking, the brain has to be trained, over time, to know how to complete those tasks.
Although the brain is much more complex than what we can delve into here today, it is clear from looking at this diagram that different language functions are primarily controlled by distinct areas of the brain.
What this shows us is that when we try to learn a language with just reading or writing exercises, it isn’t very effective because we aren’t exercising the part of the brain that controls speech. We are learning only half of what we need to become fluent in Spanish.
In other words, as a learning audience, we have been studying and learning Spanish incorrectly.
In a nutshell, our brain accomplishes any task by firing or sending electrical signals to different regions of the brain. These signals then travel through the body to the muscles that you want to use. Let’s say, for example, you want to say something. Your brain would first send out signals to different parts of the brain to recall the words and sentence structure you need. Then, it would signal your muscles to move correctly and get your vocal cords to produce the correct sound. All at the same time. Whoa! That’s a lot of tasks! No wonder it’s a hard thing to learn, huh?
Becoming More Efficient
These electrical signals we just talked about travel along something called ‘axons.’ However, the further the signals have to travel, the more energy they lose. Luckily, our axons are wrapped in a fatty substance called myelin, which helps maintain energy. You can think of axons like the coaxial cables of the brain.
When we’re younger, this myelin fatty substance is quite thin. The more we ‘practice’ specific tasks, though, the more resources your body dedicates to that axon and thickening the myelin. This, in turn, produces a very well insulated pathway for that particular electrical signal. In this TED video that explores the idea further, they refer to it as something “similar to an information superhighway.”
Logically speaking, as a signal becomes fast and more efficient, the result should appear quicker and better, right?
Targeting the Correct Objective
The answer is yes. But to make that signal faster, we need to practice the right tasks. If we want to create efficient pathways in our brain for speaking Spanish but never say a word, those pathways will never develop. We must target the correct objective when we learn Spanish.
At this point, I can probably conclude that I did not excel in high school Spanish because the curriculum and activities were creating and reinforcing axon pathways in my brain specifically for reading and writing. Had I been able to converse and develop pathways for speaking, I would have been more proficient in communicating in Spanish. There’s a common saying, “practice how you’ll execute,” and it rings true for language learning.
More Than Practice: Quality and Effectiveness
The video I previously mentioned goes on to point out that although practice is necessary to build up the myelin along your axons, it’s not the only thing needed to develop mastery over any skill, including speaking Spanish.
This explains why repeating a bunch of words randomly or without context, often does NOT lead to Spanish fluency. So, we have talked about how traditional learning methods are ineffective. What’s the correct way to learn Spanish quickly, then?
How We Do It:
At Spanish Academy, we’ve developed a unique method of teaching Spanish that centers around five key concepts represented by the acronym RAMMA. These letters stand for:
Our classes are either 1-on-1 or 2-on-1, giving you the ability to talk about things that are relevant to your life. This does a couple of things. First, it gives your brain a point of reference and allows you to contextualize and process what’s going on. It also aids in pushing the information into your long term memory.
Because the information is relevant to your experience, you’re naturally more engaged in the class. Studies show time and time again*** that when you are attentive, your brain is more likely to retain the information.
Now that your classes are relevant to your experiences, you can learn Spanish through a lens you are familiar with. This gives meaning and perspective to your Spanish learning journey. Instead of just learning a bunch of generic words and phrases that you might never use, you will actually learn useful and meaningful vocabulary, grammar, and conversation skills.
Just like being attentive allows you to store information in your long-term memory, giving meaning to the context allows you to do the same. All that context, perspective, and meaning lets you process and store this information a lot faster than if you were to just try and memorize things a list of words.
Of course, repetition plays an important part in language learning. That’s where the last letter comes in: A for accountability. To continue with something that’s difficult, you need guidance and direction – or accountability. This is one of the most important things that people forget about or don’t include in their learning regiment because they don’t think it’s important. However, it can actually shorten your learning curve by avoiding mistakes that you would otherwise make. Think of your Spanish teacher (or some accountability partner) like Google Maps. You’re still able to get to where you need to go without Google Maps, but it’s a lot faster if you have it guiding you along the way.
Learn Spanish Fast
In my travels, there’s a joke that I’ve encountered many times over – as I’m sure many of you probably have. It goes something like this…
“What do you call someone that knows three languages?”
“What do you call someone who knows two languages?”
“What do you call someone who knows one language?”
Crazy right? But, there’s some truth to the joke. In many parts of America, there are people who feel that other languages should not be spoken or used in public.
Without getting political, I think one of the reasons for this, is that people find it really hard to learn Spanish or any other language. And it is challenging, don’t get me wrong. But it can be easier than people make it out to be if they practice and learn Spanish correctly.
So, it’s time to throw out those traditional methods and start learning Spanish effectively today. Click here to learn even more about how our program can help you learn Spanish fast, or go ahead and sign up for a free class. We can’t wait to see you in class!
About the author
Ron went from zero to Spanish fluency in 3 months after he left his high-paying consultant gig to become a director of a school for impoverished kids in Guatemala in 2009 – dove into the deep end. In 2010, he saw an opportunity for a real business and began his company in his tiny apartment. As the CEO/Founder of Homeschool Spanish Academy & Spanish Academy TV, he loves making an impact in students’ lives and also really loves chocolate.
If you’d like to learn more about how the brain works, check out this TED video. Or watch this one to discover how to learn Spanish in only 6 months! These videos go more in-depth with the ideas discussed in this blog.
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Is the ability to speak Spanish as well as English truly an advantage? According to leaders in tech, translation, education and health, the answer is a resounding “YES”. Being bilingual in the workforce can make for a well-rounded team at any company. When your child can add fluency in Spanish to their resume, they become a unique and valued job candidate.
Networking on a New Level
The ability to speak a second language like Spanish can open some surprising doors. As young people begin to start competing with one another for internships or entry-level jobs, it will be essential that they stand out. A young graduate who is fluent in a language other than English will have a distinct advantage. A bilingual applicant can be considered for an interview in Spanish, reach a broader, bilingual customer base or work with a client from a Latin country.
A new employee at a sales job or in a global company who can read, write and speak Spanish will be able to make more connections than one who doesn’t. The ability to communicate and network across languages is an important skill and one that could not only get your son or daughter advance in a company. For example, a monolingual sales representative can earn a great commission, but the bilingual salesperson will reach a broader audience every time.
A Bilingual Career
The chance to be an interpreter or translator can be a great one as it opens doors in a variety of fields. Someone who can help people share knowledge or skills is highly valuable to scientists, a country’s government, a sales team, a major tech company and more.
Several fields are desperate for bilingual speakers or those who can read and write in a language other than English. Bilingualism is a skill that many American workers don’t develop, so those that come into a new job with the ability to help out on a conference call or who can write copy in Spanish for international customers could land a great career – one as a translator. (More so than just the translator, by proxy the translator becomes the gatekeeper to the whole conversation.)
Other places that are in need of bilingual workers is education. Schools need more than teachers who can speak Spanish. Schools typically seek out counselors, administrators and superintendents who can speak with all members of their local community. Healthcare is in a similar situation; many hospitals are stuck without enough bilingual staff, office workers or directors. Many hospitals medical staff as much as 10% more than the average hourly wage if they they’re bilingual. That extra pay could be as high as an extra $6,000 a year.
Jobs are changing fast and your son or daughter will need to be able to adapt. A second language is a big step towards a better job with higher wages and more room for growth.
Executive Brain Function
Even if a worker doesn’t use their second language every day, there is still a great argument for being bilingual – it makes individuals work better and smarter.
Bilingual people have more practice using their brains in a new way. This makes them more able to multitask at work and get more done on a daily basis. Also, bilingual workers have an easier time controlling their emotions and impulses.
Bilingual workers also have amazing memories and attain sharper focus at work. As the brain works harder to attain both languages, it becomes better at storing facts and helping your son or daughter keep useful tidbits at the forefront of his/her mind. This means that your super star will truly shine in whatever career he or she chooses.
Have any success stories to share about being bilingual in the workforce? Be sure to share them with the HSA community in the comments below!
Ready to try a free class? Click here to schedule your first session with one of our live, online instructors and see the HSA difference for yourself.Read More
Your child is ready to take on Spanish as a second language and you want to give them all the support you can. You want a program that can be tailored to his or her pace of learning, that gives them access to a great teacher and that you can trust to teach your child as authentically as possible. Simply put, you want to find the most effective online homeschool Spanish program for your child.
Homeschool Spanish Academy offers more than just a new computer program. It helps your child build confidence in their language skills with the help of a true, one-on-one class made especially for them. Here are a few reasons why HSA has so many success stories among for homeschool students.
Student to Teacher learning
Many programs offer a pre-fabricated, software-based language-learning system that are exactly the same for each student sitting in front of the computer. While this isn’t necessarily always a negative, it comes with complications. Students can’t clarify vague points in the lesson, there is no homework or review assigned to the learner and, most importantly, no emotional connection between the teacher and student.
When a learner has a teacher to greet at the top of each lesson, it changes how e or she interacts with the program. Knowing that someone is there to help, to cheer them on and keep them motivated turns what would otherwise be a passive experience into an active one. Most importantly, teachers can customize the lessons to each student; making the lesson and application real to them in a way that will stay with them. Students at HSA love their teachers and truly enjoy their time with them.
A Smart, Kid-Centered Curriculum
It can be difficult to develop a language program, particularly when it’s creators don’t know much about their demographic. Most assume the people taking their coursework will be adults, not kids, so they gear their program towards formal and professional language.
At HSA, we take opposite approach. We help students who want to start early and keep learning for a long time. By creating their curriculum with children in mind, we help students learn how to talk about their families, friends and interests – the things that matter to THEM – in an authentic way. Instead of asking, “What is the cost of the caviar?” they learn to say “I have a new baby brother!”
A Personalized Program
No two students learn the same way at the same pace. We are focused on making the experience of learning Spanish one the is effective for each student, delivered in a way that will make using Spanish is real life effortless and fun!
When students have difficulties with topics and concepts, you can communicate with their instructor about finding the right approach to help them succeed. If the lessons are a bit easy, our instructors can provide more unique challenges, a faster pace or for ideas on what more you can do to keep Spanish fun and challenging.
Students love Homeschool Spanish Academy because we teach them to use Spanish in real life conversation. To be able to read in more than one language, watch foreign films or call up a relative in Columbia feels like acquiring a super power. HSA understands their perspective and uses it to give them the best speaking and comprehension skills they can.
Ready to try our effective online homeschool Spanish program? Click here to sign up for your free class today.Read More
There are many reasons to learn a new language beyond earning some required school credits or reading the street signs on your next trip abroad. A new language can make a student as young as five years old more caring, more intelligent and an all-around amazing individual. Here are just 5 of many important benefits of learning a foreign language.
A Bigger, Better Functioning Brain
A person who is bilingual can honestly claim to have a better brain. Scientists in Sweden used an MRI scan to look at the physical effects that language lessons can have on young craniums. The results were clear – a second language makes for a larger brain.
The young learners who focused on a new language had visible growth in the hippocampus; a part of the brain that controls emotional development, long-term memory and spatial navigation.
Other results included growth in the cerebral cortex sections in charge of language learning. Other studies have observed an increase in grey matter, which helps the brain with executive functions. Want your little one to be a more well-rounded learner? Make language a part of their day.
Improved ‘Mother Tongue’ Mastery
While many think of language lessons as something that should come later in life, the truth is that children between three and eight years old can soak up a new set of words and see the results in their native language.
When children study Spanish or any language new to them, they start to see their own language differently. Time with new grammar helps them see mistakes in written English, helps them communicate more clearly and have an easier time reading and writing. Many children who learned a second language at a younger age had an easier time learning to read in their mother tongue.
Monolingual children are extremely empathetic and sensitive, but those who get a chance to express themselves in a new way get a different perspective; one from a new person whom they’ve never met.
Learners raised in bilingual environments, or who get the chance to speak in more than one language, are more aware of other countries and different means of expression. They aren’t intimidated by the sound of a new language and are more likely to be curious or understanding. They also consider another person’s perspective instead of rejecting it. That is learning at its finest.
Possible Delay of Alzheimer’s and Dementia
As mentioned before, speaking more than one language can make for a bigger and better brain. But did you know that bilingualism may also help slow or possibly resist cognitive brain issues associated with aging? According to several studies, regularly speaking more than one language forces structural changes in the brain as it is required to work harder. Over time, the brain develops a “cognitive reserve” which makes the bilingual brain stronger and, as a result, may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and/or dementia.
We all want what’s best for our children. We encourage healthy habits like eating well and engaging in physical exercise as there are known long-term effects. Learning to speak another language certainly has brain health benefits and is another way to set your child up for a healthy future.
As we become more reliant on technology, the workplace is changing and the demand for creative, unusual thinkers is on the rise. How do we keep that right brain working hard? We expose it to language.
Many evaluations of bilingual children have shown them to be better at solving problems than those who never learn a second language. Because they use parts of their brain more often and in different ways than their classmates, they feel more confident tackling a new challenge.
These are just 5 important benefits of learning a foreign language. Have more to add to this list? Feel free to share with the HSA community in the comments below!Read More